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Courses and Events, Drylands Management, Organic Gardening

Greening the desert, regenerating ourselves

With Sunseed Desert Technology

Learn about Permaculture and how to design sustainable communities and regenerative ecosystems  in the desert!


More and more people are starting to realize that living in a more sustainable way is the best next move they can make going forward. Permaculture is a way to obtain practical skills to achieve this goal, as well as teaching us how to communicate in a non-violent way. Some people have found that a Permaculture Design Course represents a pivotal moment in their life, and marks a transition towards a healthier relationship both with ourselves and everyone and everything that surrounds us. 


Los Molinos del Río Aguas, Almería, Southern Spain  – an off-grid village, located in the “last oasis” of Southern Spain.   


October 4th – 20th, 2024




€580 until July (early bird discount) or €630 from July until end of September (includes 3 meals per day + supper on the arrival day and breakfast on departure day), as well as 90+ hours of permaculture classes (theory and practical). Classes will be given by several passionate permaculturists, 3 main facilitators plus invited experts, who will be sharing their years of experience obtained in different parts of the world. Participants also receive a certificate that they have completed a recognised PDC at the end of the course.

Book now

Register your interest by filling in the inscription form

Important note: Places can only be reserved once a EUR 200 non-refundable deposit has been made.

Course location

Ecovillage “Los Molinos del Río Aguas” Sorbas, Almería

Los Molinos del Río Aguas is an ancient Andalusian village with a rich historical background tied to the abundance of water and the presence of numerous mills for producing flour and olive oil. Nestled in Europe’s “last oasis” and protected by the Natura 2000 network as well as being designated a natural park, the Los Molinos del Río Aguas valley forms part of a Karst landscape reserve, characterized by gypsum rocks. This unique ecosystem is home to various endemic species of flora and fauna.

All the houses in the village are self-sustaining: water is sourced from an ancient irrigation system and pumped into the houses using a hydraulic ram pump, while electricity is generated through solar panels. This setup offers a serene and responsible lifestyle independent of government utilities. Once nearly abandoned by the locals, the village is now home to a cosmopolitan group of approximately 30 residents, with a steady flow of volunteers and visitors enriching its vibrant community throughout the year. 

There are several hiking trails along the river, and natural swimming pools for bathing. The valley lies 30 km from the coastal natural reserve, Cabo de Gata, known for its stunning, pristine beaches. The nearest city, Almeria, is 60 km away.

Sunseed Desert Technology

Sunseed is a non-formal education project, housed in Los Molinos del Río Aguas. The project has over 35 years of experience researching, learning, and experimenting with the regeneration of ecosystems, including research into the symbiotic relationships between mycorrhizal fungi and plant roots – fundamental to soil restoration.

Over the years, Sunseed has gradually evolved into an experiential education centre with visitors and volunteers working to support the ongoing tasks of the project, whilst simultaneously learning how to live in a low-impact way. Sunseed grows much of its food in the community kitchen garden, and they are currently in the process of establishing a food forest.

Course Description 

Permaculture aims to create systems that create harmonious connections between humans and the planet. The Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren coined the term in the 70’s, a combination of the words “permanent” and “agriculture. Permaculture ethics, principles, and design techniques were first used to develop sustainable agricultural systems as an alternative to the growth of agro-industry and the consumer economy. From these beginnings, the concept of Permaculture has expanded and diversified to cover nearly all types of human-based systems.

Permaculture design courses (PDCs) have been developed as an introduction to this way of thinking and teach the tools and techniques needed for participants to design their sustainable systems. These courses are taught through both theory and practice and weave in both ancestral knowledge and recent discoveries.  At Sunseed we showcase many examples of Permaculture in practice.

In this two-week PDC, we use the basic curriculum as set out by the UK Permaculture Association and supported by the Southeastern Spanish Permaculture Network (REPESEI).

The course will take place in a real context, in which the participants have the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of how, at Los Molinos, we harvest water, regenerate soil, plant trees and grow vegetables in a desert environment following Permaculture principles. During the course, we will also address aspects of social Permaculture, where we will focus on self-care, community living, equitable participation, and effective decision-making models. 

Course content

We will follow the course curriculum as set out by the UK Permaculture Association and supported by the Southeastern Spanish Permaculture Network (REPESEI).

In addition to the theory, we will do many practical exercises in order to learn by doing, as well as a group final design. This will be done by participants using a Permaculture design framework, as well as all the theoretical knowledge gained during the course, and the knowledge and experience each person brings.  

Main subjects covered:

  1. A short history of Permaculture, ethics and principles (Mollison y Holmgren)
  2. The design process itself: survey – analysis – design – implementation – maintenance – evaluation – tweaking.
  3. Designing for climate emergency: food independence, communities
  4. Soil structure and the soil ecosystem: fertility, sampling and analysis, management, regeneration (especially in arid environments). 
  5. Water: the water cycle, water availability, capture and storage, retention in the landscape.
  6. Plants/trees:  basic botany, the ecology of a forest, forest management, types of forests.
  7. Sustainable farming systems, including regenerative agriculture, natural farming, and syntropic agriculture
  8. Wellbeing and self-care: symbiotic nutrition, integrative medicine
  9. Natural building 
  10. Appropriate technology
  11. Social Permaculture: social and organizational structures, group facilitation, participatory decision making, transition economics.


  1. Reading the landscape + observation techniques; forest bathing
  2. Basic mapping: aspect, scale, how to mark out contour lines, trilateralization
  3. Contour line measuring
  4. Water retention systems
  5. Soil analysis 
  6. Soil regeneration techniques
  7. Regenerative agriculture systems
  8. Natural building 
  9. Design time

Who we are

Frances Osborn (teacher)

Frances is an ecologist with a degree in Environmental Sciences from Southampton University, UK, and a PhD in Insect Ecology from the Simón Bolívar University, Venezuela. In 2014, after 10 years working as a research scientist at the Eastern University, Venezuela, she returned to Europe where she did her first PDC in Brighton, UK. She has been studying and practicing permaculture ever since, and graduated with a Diploma in Applied Permaculture in March 2021. She has been teaching PDCs since 2019 at different venues, including Proyecto Rucula in Murcia and the Suryalila Yoga Retreat in Cadiz.  Frances has extensive experience in garden and agricultural systems, gained from her many volunteering placements, including two years at the first Ecosystem Restoration Camp in the dry highlands to the northeast of the Murcia region in southern Spain. She is currently helping to restore an old stone cottage near Calasparra, Murcia  using natural building techniques. Frances is currently secretary for Urban Street Forest, an association based in Holland and Spain that seeks to reforest degraded drylands, and is an active member of the Permaculture Network in south-eastern Spain. Frances has made volunteering her main lifestyle choice, a path which has led her to minimize her costs rather than maximize her income, and gives her the freedom to take up opportunities as they appear. Travel plays an important role in her life and the bicycle is her preferred mode of transport, as this enables her to slow down, appreciate the scenery, and enjoy the journey. 

Luis Simada (teacher)

Luis is a permaculture advisor, designer and teacher and also network facilitator. He is trained as a designer, group facilitator, permaculture teacher, fermenter and project coordinator. He also participates and actively contributes in different social, activist and alternative movements like the Iberian Southeast Permaculture Network (REPESEI), La Espiral del Sureste Ibérico, the Iberia Ecovillage Network (RIE), and the Cauac Editorial Nativa or Social Permaculture Movements. He is coordinating the Ecosystem Restoration Department at Sunseed. He has also been teaching different courses about Symbiotic Nutrition, Regenerative and Natural Agriculture or Appropriate Technologies. Luis  really appreciates discovering new ways to create resilience and communities, that’s why he is also Simada, traveling around Iberia supporting and designing alternative projects while continue to learn from each one of them. He loves listening, expressing his emotions, creating new ferments and healthy recipes, doing experiments, designing social solutions, playing, wild nature, ancient trees, ancestral traditions and live music.

Juanma Pinar (teacher)

Juanma is an Andalusian biologist mostly focused on botany and agro-ecology (University of Seville, SP) with a Masters in winemaking & viti-vinicole environment (University of Bordeaux, FR). After a few years of working/traveling around the world in diverse kinds of vineyards and making different styles of wines, he started to worry about the big impact this huge industry has on the environment (such as waste of water, death of soils, harmful pesticides, elitist markets, and so on) so he came back home and deeply started to melt into permaculture philosophy. 

He obtained his PDC in early 2020 in “Centro Extremeño de Permacultura La Caraba” (Cáceres), and a following “introduction to bioconstruction” course in Alcañiz (Erasmus+, Teruel), plus a certificate of “nature activities instructor -educational and social potential-” from Andalucía GDR (Development Rural Group). Then he started to collaborate with a community garden integrated in a natural park in his town (Ecohuerto Los Toruños, Cadiz) and joined climate justice movements such as Extinction Rebellion and “Ecologistas en Acción”. In parallel he was working as environmental educator for different local enterprises (Ecoherencia, Caucenatura) mostly centered on agro-ecology, nature hiking and other active learning services for public schools. 

At the moment he is leading the gardens’ team in Sunseed, which includes work such as: fixing and redesigning the irrigation systems, restoring poor soils with -animal/green manure, compost and mulching- refreshing the old seedbank, replacing losts with new plants adapted to drought, researching on edible and medicinal wild-plants-based preparations, improving associations/rotations of crops, and a long etcetera of learn-by-doing processes.

Marco De Angelis (assistant teacher)

My journey began in Rome, where I was born 33 years ago with a deep love for nature. Growing up, I pursued my passion by studying Forestry Sciences and Nature Conservation, which took me on exchanges to Slovenia, Portugal, and Germany, broadening my understanding of sustainable resource management.

Completing my studies with a doctoral program in wood technologies and composite materials at the University of Hamburg, I discovered the potential of recycled materials for social housing, leading to collaborations with Ethiopia and South Africa.

Feeling a stronger connection to nature, I moved to Spain, settling in Los Molinos de Rio Aguas, an off-grid village. Here, I immersed myself in local projects and started cultivating food in our garden, finding fulfillment in sustainable living.

Now, I’m thrilled to share my journey and passion for permaculture in this course, eager to learn and collaborate for a more sustainable future.

Ricardo Riquelme (invited expert)

Ricardo is a permaculture designer, farmer specialized in successional agroforestry systems, efficient water management, biological pest control and zero tillage. Creator of the permaculture project  “Mano Verde”, based in El Bosque (Pilar de la Horadada, Alicante) where they cultivate and regenerate the environment based on syntrophic agriculture. Apart from offering seasonal products, they recover old seeds, offer consulting and design of farms and also training for farmers and individuals.

Mónica Adán

Mónica Adán is office coordinator at Sunseed Project, managing the administration, education and communication departments. She also collaborates in the Yes to Sustainability network where she is in charge of the administration and management of European youth projects and has gained experience in planning, writing, coordinating and executing grant projects. She has visited numerous ecovillages and ecoprojects all over Europe to learn more about the different living alternatives that can be created. She collaborates with projects that can help young people to discover their passions and empower them by developing their own projects.

Ashley Sheets

Ashley Sheets is a degrowth and environmental labour activist who works as project manager and sustainable living coordinator for Proyecto Sunseed, a non-formal education project. Her work is centred on environmental stewardship and social change, working to make more sustainable forms of living accessible and intersectional in the day to day. Her background is in degrowth, political ecology and environmental justice, and specifically focuses on the intersections where environmental movements and labour activism meet. She also collaborates with the International Degrowth Network, the Feminisms and Degrowth Alliance, and is a founding member of the Working Class Climate Alliance.

Our certifying Association

REPESEI, the Southeastern Spanish Permaculture Network.

Towards the end of the 1980s the seeds of the REPESEI (Red de Permacultura del Sureste Ibérico) were sown by a small group of locals and travelers. 

This small group organized gatherings, workshops and courses, during which ideas of alternative ways of understanding life began to germinate and grow, answering the questions and needs of the individuals and groups that attended them.

In 1996, Rosa Mejuto along with a women’s group, and inspired by Permaculture Movements and Natural Agriculture, founded the REPESEI.  The number of gatherings and Permaculture Projects increased, from which a network started to spread – and is still growing.

Since then there have been a large diversity of workshops and courses given and promoted by the network, among which we can highlight those by Jairo Restrepo (Columbia) and Nacho Simón (Mexico), that have taught us new ways to care for life in the soil under our feet, improving its fertility, and harmonizing the relationships between it and the plants we cultivate. Many of us now make our own bio-preparations. 

Furthermore, there have been many Permaculture gatherings held at many sites from Alicante to Málaga. Currently there are 4 gatherings yearly in Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn, as well as a mutual support network (TAM – Tragozando Apoyo Mutuo) that support projects throughout south-eastern Spain. 


October 4th to 20th, 2024

You should arrive on Friday, October 4th in the afternoon / evening. Classes will start on Saturday, October 5th in the morning.

The course will end with the design presentations on Saturday, October 19th and an evening celebration. Participants should leave on Sunday, October 20th before 1:00 pm.  There will be one free day mid-course. Classes will start daily at 9:00 am after breakfast and end at 8:00 pm before supper. We always start the day with a morning circle to check in with each other, and inform about the day’s programme and any logistics


The cost for the PDC will be EUR 580 until July (early bird discount) or €630 from July until end of September + accommodation costs and includes:

  • Teaching (theory and practice)  by a diverse group of passionate permaculturists all of whom bring their own knowledge and experience in the different permaculture fields (or Permaculture Petals).
  • An officially recognised certificate at the end of the course. 
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages
  • We provide warm and cold showers and there is room to do collective laundry.
  • At Los Molinos there is lots of space to be on your own or to walk through the beautiful valley and ravine. 
  • Telephone coverage and Wifi 

Food and Beverages

All food and (non alcoholic) drinks will be provided during the whole course. We serve vegan/vegetarian food at Sunseed, but please talk to us about special wishes for food or allergies.

Coffee, herbal teas, and drinking water will be available throughout the course. You can also bring private snacks and treats for your well-being with you.

Accommodation (separate cost)

There is a choice of a mixed dorm (sleeps 6), triple, or double rooms (limited availability). All rooms with shared bathroom. There are also some spots available for tents. Please contact Juanma (contact details below) for details.

Booking and cancellations: Register your interest by filling in the inscription form here:

Important note: Places can only be reserved once a EUR 200 non-refundable deposit has been made.

What if my plans change: A full refund minus the deposit can be made up to one month (September 4th) before the start of the course. This will be reduced to a 50% refund (minus the deposit) two weeks (September 20th) before the start of the course, and a 25% refund (minus the deposit) two days (October 2nd) before the start of the course. This applies to the cost of the course only.

How to get here

Los Molinos del Río Aguas is a small village located in Sorbas, in the southeast of Spain, 45 minutes by car from Almería, the closest city.

Since Sorbas is a small town, we will organize a pick-up in order to let you all arrive safely at the placement. Therefore, the best connection will be to get to Almería bus station, and from there take the public transport to Sorbas. We will pick you up there and take you to Los Molinos.

If your idea is to fly to Spain, the nearest airport is Almería Airport (LEI). You can usually fly cheaper, though, if you go to Málaga Airport (AGP) or Alicante (ALC)

  • From Málaga Airport to Almería, take a bus to Almería. The journey takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes and costs 22 EURO (one way).: Check bus timetables AGP-Almería here!
  • From Almería Estación Autobús. There are several buses per day to Sorbas. The schedule varies depending on the day:
    • – Mondays to Fridays: 8:30, 11:00, and 15:30.
    • – Saturdays: 11:00.
    • – Sundays: 8:30 and 11:00.

  • From Alicante to Almería you can take a bus to Murcia which has daily direct connections, and from there take a transfer to Vera.  Then from Vera, there is the connection to Sorbas by bus. Check here the bus timetables Vera-Sorbas.

Make sure to check the bus timetables and availability in advance, especially for connections from Málaga and Alicante.

Please note that activities will start on Saturday, the 5th of October at 8:30 am, so please organize yourself in order to be able to arrive on Friday evening.  

Activities will end on the evening of Saturday, the 19th of October, so you can plan your trip back to your country starting from Sunday morning (20/10/2024).

Book now

Register your interest by filling in the inscription form 

Contact details

Juanma Pinar: +34 605 125 477


Drylands Management, Sunseed Stories

To read the first installment of A Drylands Tale by former Drylands Coordinator Agata, go here. 


Near the ruined house across the Rio Aguas, where man no longer lives and the acequia (i.e., the aqueduct that brought water to the houses and gardens) has been destroyed, among the gypsum rocks there is a big, old, wise carob tree. Like every morning, on that spring day the bees from the hives of the large carob tree and the beautiful plants of Ephedra, Genista, Retama, Albaida and Ononis in its surroundings gathered under the tree’s canopy for the morning circle, and each of the older foraging bees offered the younger ones to join them in collecting nectar and pollen in different nearby lands.

That day sister bees Mel and Pam decided to propose something new to the others: cross the river to go see the flowers in the Arboretum, that strange garden full of unfamiliar trees planted by humans. None of the bees present had been there in a long time. The great carob tree that morning, listening to the conversation, awoke from its now almost perpetual state of semi-wakefulness. The old tree expressed its concern about Mel and Pam and possible unpredictable consequences of coming into contact with the foreign plants in the Arboretum. Some queen bees spoke out in support of the large carob tree. Mel and Pam, however, were extremely curious and courageous, and the words of the carob tree and the bees only served to increase their curiosity.

The two sister bees did not want to wait any longer, so they flew forward, soon encountering the thicket of reeds, tamarisk and white poplars of the river. Then, finally, among the lush vegetation, there was the water! The water that in spite of everything still flowed and still flows alive, fresh and clear in the gypsum valley, and gives life to an exuberant ecosystem all around. It nourishes and provides an ideal habitat for plants, algae and turtles, frogs and toads, snakes and small songbirds, all the insects, the goats and other small and large animals that quench their thirst there. 

Mel and Pam recalled the carob tree’s tale to all the animals that inhabited its roots, its wood, and its canopies: the river in days gone by carried much, much more water with it, so the oasis around it was even larger and more lush than what the bees saw today. They remembered his words, “All life existing here depends inextricably on the river; on this river that dangerously shrinks from year to year, but still, incomprehensibly and amazingly, survives.” 

Mel and Pam that morning enjoyed the coolness of the air and quenched their thirst by perching atop a tiny waterfall among the rocks.

Taking to the air again, the brave bees found themselves on the other bank in the blink of an eye. They could see the Arboretum perfectly now; it was just a little further up. The sister bees were enveloped in a wave of the most intense scent they had never smelled before. Their eyes sensed the strong attraction of the yellow flowers they saw from afar nestled in bright green foliage. Without realizing it, the bees flew up to the flowers, as if moved by an innate force. They could not believe their antennae: the Arboretum was a land full of trees they had never seen! And with even more wonder, the bees discovered that some of these trees carried an incredible amount of nectar! 

There were already hundreds of bees and other insects moving from flower to flower. A bee named Fil greeted them and told them that these were exotic legume trees planted by the men who had come from afar and settled in the village of “Los Molinos del Rio Aguas” in years past. Fil said this was the first year that the flower production was so abundant. There were still plenty of flowers available and Mel and Pam were welcome!

The two bees looked at each other wordlessly and in a state of ecstasy began to fill their little honeydew bags with nectar with their proboscises until, already in not even an hour there was no empty space left to fill!

Mel and Pam slowly made their way back, heavy with nectar as they were, and said to themselves, “Tomorrow we will bring all our hive mates and more! It will be a big party!” That evening Mel and Pam recounted the mind-blowing experience; their nectar loot made many other fellow foragers envious and even made some queen bees’ eyes sparkle. So the next morning when they proposed at the morning circle to return to the Arboretum many bees followed them. On the other hand, however, a good half of the community of bees and other pollinating insects were wary of the novelty and were worried to see so many bees abandoning the gathering in the small and fragrant shrubs, such as the thyme of the dry lands, to go to the unfamiliar plants of the Arboretum. These doubtful and wary insects therefore continued to forage in the surrounding arid lands.

That year honey production was so abundant that the bees no longer knew what to do with all the honey produced!

Soon in the following years, most of the pollinating insects in the lands around the village of Los Molinos “converted” to the nectar of the exotic trees of the Arboretum: the Acacia, the Prosopis, the Vachellia… From year to year, thanks to such insects, these trees dispersed huge quantities of seeds and dozens and dozens of seedlings emerged from the soil everywhere in and around the village in the arid lands.

The population of pollinators increased, but at the same time, these insects stopped pollinating the native shrubs in the drylands to concentrate their work on the miracle plants of the Arboretum. Thus while the exotic plants gained more and more land, the very numerous species of native plants gradually lost their ability to produce seeds and moreover sometimes found less water and nutrients available to them. So the native shrubs were more than once replaced by the new plants brought by humans.

Native plants have been adapting and evolving for centuries and centuries to these saline soils and subdesert climate, and their immense genetic diversity is an essential treasure for the health and balance of the river ecosystem and surrounding drylands, as it keeps populations of organisms that would otherwise become harmful in check. Many plants living around the river still ask many questions that remain to this day unanswered. 

During a hot August a couple of years after Mel and Pam’s discovery, an Oroval (Withania frutescens) born among the gypsum monoliths of the Nacimiento, where exotic plants have never yet arrived, thought aloud, “I wonder what is the potential capacity of these exotic trees to develop their population in these lands….” So he asked his neighbor, a very large Lentisco tree (Pistacia Lentiscus), “Do you think my friend that the riverbed will ever be occupied by these trees with the thick, thorny foliage that all the insects are talking about?” The thoughtful Lentisco did not find an answer and rather asked in turn “and even if they do spread, can these plants really harm the balance of the ecosystem? Can they reduce the existing biodiversity?” Most importantly, he wondered, “What would be the long-term consequences for the living organisms in these lands?” A small endemic shrub of Jarilla de Sorbas (Helianthemum alypoides), interested and alarmed by the conversation, intervened with a further question, “Besides, is the effect of these trees on the water cycle and soil erosion control really beneficial? In addition to the direct and beneficial effect on the water cycle of their roots and foliage, it must be considered that if they cause damage to the native plants this could seriously jeopardize the stability of the soils of this valley and the surrounding ones!!!” To conclude, an old snake passing by proclaimed hissing, “Tsssssss… What are you plants worrying about! Tsssssss… You can’t see the river from here, but I can! Tsssssss… Its disappearance seems more and more imminent to me! Now that should terrify you! Tsssssssss…”

That torrid August, the queen bees, under advice from the wise carob tree, called for a plenary meeting of all pollinating insects. The goal was to decide definitively and by consensus whether nectar from exotic plants was worth the (unquantifiable) risk of destroying the balance of the ecosystem. But the plenary did not work and became an endless debate. Positions are to this day conflicting: some insects say the benefits in the short term are more concrete than the unknown risks in the long term. In addition, some wasps ask, “But who are we to decide or attempt to control the fate of this community of living things? It’s not like it’s just us pollinating insects! Besides, it’s not like we are human beings!” The butterflies support the wasps and say, “We will deal with the problem when it manifests itself.” 

Other insects on the contrary want to stop pollinating exotic trees. They repeat, “Better to prevent now than to be in an ecological disaster later! By the time the problem is visible it will be too late and we won’t be able to do anything about it!”

In short, to date no one knows what the fate of this wonderful ecosystem will be. What will happen to the water? And what will be the fate of its so biodiverse community of living organisms?



Secondo racconto delle terre di macchia mediterranea e delle terre gestite dall’uomo in Sunseed 

 Vicino alla casa diroccata al di là del Rio Aguas, dove ormai l’uomo non vive più e l’acequia (cioè l’acquedotto che portava l’acqua alle case e agli orti) è andata distrutta, tra le rocce di gesso c’è un grande, vecchio e sapiente carrubo. Come tutte le mattine, anche quel giorno di primavera le api degli alveari del grande carrubo e delle belle piante di Ephedra, Genista, Retama, Albaida e Ononis nei suoi dintorni si riunirono sotto le fronde dell’albero per il cerchio del mattino e ognuna delle api bottinatrici più anziane offrì alle altre più giovani di unirsi a loro per raccogliere nettare e polline in diverse terre vicine.

Quel giorno le api sorelle Mel e Pam decisero di proporre qualcosa di nuovo alle altre: oltrepassare il fiume per andare a vedere i fiori dell’Arboretum, quello strano giardino pieno di alberi sconosciuti piantati dagli umani. Nessuna delle api presenti era stata lì da tempo immemore. Il grande carrubo quella mattina ascoltando la conversazione si svegliò dal suo stato, ormai quasi perenne, di semi veglia. Il vecchio albero, manifestò la sua preoccupazione per Mel e Pam e per possibili conseguenze imprevedibili dell’entrare in contatto con le piante estranee dell’Arboretum. Alcune api regine si pronunciarono a supporto del grande carrubo. Mel e Pam però erano estremamente curiose e coraggiose e le parole del carrubo e delle api solo servirono ad aumentare la loro curiosità.

Le due api sorelle non avevano più voglia di aspettare, dunque si inoltrano in volo, incontrando ben presto la selva di canne, tamerici e pioppi bianchi del fiume. Poi, finalmente, tra la rigogliosa vegetazione, ecco l’acqua! L’acqua che nonostante tutto scorreva ancora e tuttora scorre viva, fresca e trasparente nella valle gessosa, e che dà vita ad un ecosistema esuberante tutto attorno. Essa nutre e fornisce un habitat ideale per le  piante, le alghe e le tartarughe, le rane e i rospi, i serpenti e i piccoli uccelli canterini, tutti gli insetti, le capre e gli altri piccoli e grandi animali che vi si dissetano.

Mel e Pam ricordarono il racconto dell’anziano carrubo a tutti gli animali che abitavano le sue radici, il suo legno e le sue chiome: il fiume nei tempi passati portava molta, molta più acqua con sé, perciò l’oasi attorno ad esso era ancora più grande e rigogliosa di quella che le api vedevano oggi. Ricordavano le sue parole: “Tutta la vita qui esistente dipende imprescindibilmente dal fiume; da questo fiume che pericolosamente si rimpicciolisce di anno in anno, ma che ancora, incomprensibilmente e stupefacentemente, sopravvive”.

Mel e Pam quella mattina godettero della frescura dell’aria e si dissetarono posandosi in cima ad una piccolissima cascata d’acqua tra le rocce.

Rimettendosi in volo le api coraggiose si ritrovarono sull’altra sponda in un batter d’occhio. Adesso lo vedevano perfettamente l’Arboretum, era giusto poco più su. Le api sorelle vennero avvolte da un’ondata di profumo intensissimo e mai sentito prima. I loro occhi percepivano l’attrazione forte dei fiori gialli che vedevano da lontano immersi in un fogliame verde vivo. Senza rendersene conto le api volarono sino ai fiori, come mosse da una forza innata. Non potevano credere alle loro antenne: l’Arboretum era una terra piena di alberi che non avevano mai visto! E con ancora più meraviglia le api scoprirono che alcuni di questi alberi portavano una quantità di nettare incredibile!

C’erano già centinaia di api e altri insetti che si muovevano di fiore in fiore. Un’ape di nome Fil le accolse e disse loro che si trattava di alberi esotici di leguminose, piantati dagli uomini arrivati da lontano che si erano installati nel villaggio di “Los Molinos del Rio Aguas” negli anni passati. Fil disse che questo era il primo anno che la produzione di fiori era così abbondante. C’erano ancora tantissimi fiori a disposizione e Mel e Pam erano le benvenute! Le due api si guardarono senza parole ed in uno stato di estasi iniziarono a riempire di nettare le loro piccole borse melarie con le loro proboscidi, fino a che, già in neanche un’ora non c’era più alcuno spazio vuoto da riempire!

Mel e Pam fecero lentamente ritorno, pesanti di nettare com’erano, e si dissero “domani porteremo tutte le nostre compagne di alveare e non solo! Sarà una grande festa!”. Quella sera Mel e Pam raccontarono l’esperienza strabiliante, il loro bottino di nettare fece invidia a molte altre compagne bottinatrici e fece brillare gli occhi anche ad alcune api regine. Così la mattina successiva quando al cerchio del mattino proposero di tornare all’Arboretum molte api le seguirono. D’altra parte, tuttavia, una buona metà della comunità delle api ed altri insetti impollinatori era diffidente davanti alla novità e si preoccupò nel vedere tante api abbandonare la raccolta negli arbusti piccoli e profumati, come il timo delle terre aride, per andare verso le piante sconosciute dell’Arboretum. Questi insetti dubbiosi e diffidenti dunque continuarono a bottinare nelle terre aride circostanti.

Quell’anno la produzione di miele fu talmente abbondante che le api non seppero più che fare di tutto il miele prodotto! Ben presto negli anni successivi gran parte degli insetti impollinatori delle terre attorno al villaggio di Los Molinos si “convertirono” al nettare degli alberi esotici dell’Arboretum: le Acacia, i Prosopis, le Vachellia… Di anno in anno, grazie a tali insetti, questi alberi dispersero grandissime quantità di semi e decine e decine di piantine emersero dal suolo ovunque nel villaggio e attorno, nelle terre aride.

La popolazione di impollinatori aumentò, ma allo stesso tempo, questi insetti smisero di impollinare gli arbusti nativi delle terre aride per concentrare il proprio lavoro sulle piante miracolose dell’Arboretum. Così mentre le piante esotiche guadagnavano sempre più terra, le numerosissime specie di piante native perdevano progressivamente la loro capacità di produrre semi e perdipiù a volte trovavano meno acqua e nutrienti a loro disposizione. Dunque gli arbusti nativi furono più volte sostituiti dalle nuove piante portate dagli esseri umani. 

Le piante native si sono evolute ed adattate per secoli e secoli a questi suoli salini e a questo clima subdesertico, e la loro immensa diversità genetica è un tesoro essenziale per la salute e l’equilibrio dell’ecosistema del fiume e delle terre aride circostanti, poiché tiene sotto controllo le popolazioni di organismi che altrimenti diventerebbero nocivi. Molte piante che vivono attorno al fiume si fanno ancora oggi tante domande che restano senza risposta. Durante un caldo Agosto di un paio di anni dopo la scoperta di Mel e Pam, un Oroval (Withania frutescens) nato tra i monoliti di gesso del Nacimiento, dove le piante esotiche non sono ancora mai arrivate, pensava ad alta voce: “Chissà qual è la capacità potenziale di questi alberi esotici di sviluppare la loro popolazione in queste terre…”. Quindi chiese al suo vicino, un grandissimo Lentisco (Pistacia lentiscus) “credi amico mio che il letto del fiume verrà mai occupato da questi alberi dalle chiome folte e spinose di cui tutti gli insetti parlano?”. Il Lentisco pensoso non trovò una risposta e anzi chiese a sua volta “e anche se si diffondessero, possono queste piante davvero danneggiare l’equilibrio dell’ecosistema? Possono ridurre la biodiversità esistente?” E soprattutto il lentisco si chiese “Quali sarebbero le conseguenze nel lungo termine per gli organismi viventi di queste terre?”. Un piccolo arbusto endemico di Jarilla de Sorbas (Helianthemum alypoides), interessato e allarmato dalla conversazione, intervenne con una ulteriore domanda: “E poi l’effetto di questi alberi sul ciclo dell’acqua e sul controllo dell’erosione del suolo è davvero positivo? Oltre all’effetto diretto e vantaggioso per il ciclo dell’acqua delle loro radici e chiome, bisogna considerare che se essi comporteranno danni alle piante native ciò potrebbe mettere seriamente a rischio la stabilità dei terreni di questa valle e di quelle circostanti!!”. Per finire un vecchio serpente che passava di là proferì sibilando: “Tsssssss… Ma di che vi preoccupate voi piante! Tsssssss… Voi non potete vedere il fiume da qui, ma io sì! Tsssssss… La sua scomparsa mi sembra sempre più imminente! Questo sì che dovrebbe terrorizzarvi! Tsssssssssssss…” 

Quell’agosto torrido le api regine, sotto consiglio del saggio carrubo, convocarono una riunione plenaria di tutti gli insetti impollinatori. L’obiettivo era decidere in modo definitivo e consensuale se il nettare delle piante esotiche valeva il rischio (non quantificabile) di distruggere l’equilibrio dell’ecosistema. Ma la plenaria non funzionò e diventò un’infinita discussione. Le posizioni sono tutt’ora contrastanti: alcuni insetti dicono che i vantaggi nel breve termine sono più concreti dei rischi sconosciuti nel lungo termine. Inoltre alcune vespe si chiedono: “Ma chi siamo noi per decidere o tentare di controllare il destino di questa comunità di esseri viventi? Non ci siamo mica solo noi insetti impollinatori! E poi noi non siamo mica come gli esseri umani!” Le farfalle, sostengono le vespe ed affermano: “Affronteremo il problema quando questo si manifesterà”. Altri insetti al contrario vogliono smettere di impollinare gli alberi esotici. Questi ripetono: “Meglio prevenire ora, che trovarsi in un disastro ecologico dopo! Quando il problema sarà visibile sarà troppo tardi e non potremo più fare niente per risolverlo!”

Insomma, ad oggi nessuno sa quale sarà il destino di questo meraviglioso ecosistema. Che ne sarà dell’acqua? E che ne sarà della sua così biodiversa comunità di organismi viventi? 


Drylands Management
Dry stone walls have been built by humans around the world for thousands of years. Unlike brick walls, dry stone walls (piedras secas) are made by stacking stones without a wet mortar to hold them together. They are strong and can last hundreds of years, and these types of constructions can be found all over rural areas in Andalusia as well as other parts of Spain. The walls are built to slow and contain erosion during heavy rains, and also to aid the growth of plants around them by serving as cooling and condensation objects.

piedra seca traditional dry stone walls andalusia

These walls also act as water reservoirs, holding onto cool water and slowly dripping it into the surroundings over time after a rainfall. Because Sunseed is located in an arid region with long, dry periods with little to no rain, they become even more important. Our Sunseed community recently collaborated with some neighbours in Los Molinos to repair and reconstruct a number of dry stone walls in our area. Hot, tiring work, but very important to maintain our precious ecosystem and keep it as healthy as possible!⚒️

traditional spanish dry stone wall building


Los humanos han construido muros de piedra seca en todo el mundo durante miles de años. A diferencia de las paredes de ladrillo, las paredes de piedra seca se hacen apilando piedras sin un mortero húmedo para mantenerlas juntas. Son fuertes y pueden durar cientos de años, y este tipo de construcciones se pueden encontrar en todas las zonas rurales de Andalucía, así como en otras partes de España. Los muros están construidos para frenar y contener la erosión durante las fuertes lluvias, y también para ayudar al crecimiento de las plantas a su alrededor sirviendo como objetos de enfriamiento y condensación.

building traditional dry stone walls in andalusia spain

Estas paredes también actúan como depósitos de agua, reteniendo agua y goteándola lentamente en los alrededores con el tiempo después de una lluvia. Debido a que vivimos en una región árida con largos períodos secos con poca o ninguna lluvia, se vuelven aún más importantes. Nuestra comunidad de Sunseed colaboró recientemente con algunos vecinos de Los Molinos para reparar y reconstruir varios muros de piedra seca en nuestra área. Un trabajo candente y agotador, pero muy importante!

Drylands Management

Tale of the Mediterranean Drylands in Sunseed

by Drylands Coordinator Agata

A tiny gypsum crystal is carried by the cool water of the river among the roots of the brambles, and among the canes.

Once, a long time ago, he was set at the top of the bushy hill where he enjoyed the best view in the whole valley of the river, like a free swallow in endless skies of light, above endless arid lands.

He found himself surrounded by so many other similar yet different crystals.

The crystal waited patiently for years for the blanket of the small orange lichen spreading nearby to cover it.

A thyme, however, was quicker and wrapped it in its roots. One day, a herd of wild goats swept over the thyme with their fast, hard hooves. So the little crystal also tumbled down, down, down, until it got stuck in a crack of the rock on the ravine.

There a carob tree was already growing, it was thirsty but tough and resilient. The crystal was amazed by the strength and courage of this creature.

The carob tree had put down its strong and deep roots in the crack of the rock, he thought it would be a good place to grow. However, it had not taken into account the burning sun out there. 

That sun was his heart, a heart in tachycardia in the apparent calm of the day, and this sun was pumping water into the wood of the small carob tree at great speed, sucking it out of the leaves. The carob tree arrived exhausted at sunset, but every night it recovered and breathed deeply, so strongly that the crystal was always afraid to fly away. 

The carob tree loved life, it knew that its life gave birth to so many others: to the birds that built their nests on its branches, to the animals, small insects and microscopic organisms that lived in the soil feeding on its dried leaves, its old roots, and the food that the carob tree deliberately released into the soil to attract friendly fungi and bacteria. These friends gave him a big hand by bringing water and nutrients and he could count on them especially in times of trouble, because if he lived they would continue to live.

The gypsum crystal was immensely grateful to inhabit the roots of the brave carob tree and decided to support him in every way he could, clinging to all the soil he could and retaining all the organic matter that happened to be around him: the leaves, the waste from birds, rabbits, goats, earthworms and insects.

The carob tree grew bigger and bigger and after dozens and dozens of years he began to lose his leaves. 

The crystal was extremely worried, but the carob tree reassured him: “Life is beautiful because, although it has an end, it produces more life ad infinitum”. The carob tree had given his all, for all those years, and now it was the turn of others to take his place. The next trees would be lucky because they would have the huge network of friends that the carob tree had built and also a nice, soft, moist cushion on which to lean and put down their roots. 

One spring night, the now old and tired but serene carob tree was uprooted by a great storm. The crystal decided to go with him and soon found himself in the water. When the sun rose, the carob tree was no longer there, and the crystal discovered that he had arrived in the water of the river. It was an incredible feeling! A new adventure had just begun and he was full of faith and ready to live it fully.


Are you interested in joining our Drylands team? We are currently looking for a Coordinator and an Assistant to join our community in the coming months. Contact Agata at 


Drylands Management, Organic Gardening, Sunseed News, Volunteer Stories

The first rains of the season have been and gone… and they have left their mark on the land here. Our beautiful poza looks different from last week, because the water swept through the valley, knocking caña aside and carrying with it the dust and soil from the surrounding hills. The hills themselves look so much cleaner, the plants have definable and separate colours, rather than all being coated in the fine dust, early mornings are sweet with soft dew, and even the air feels fresher.

Before and After the Storm


We knew the rains were coming days before they arrived, though the amount of precipitation was often in question: We were told to expect 40mm to fall on Thursday, three hours later that had gone up to 100mm and 200mm on Friday but over the next day the prediction dropped to 40mm over 4 days, only to shoot back up to 100mm in 3 hours. The weather warnings for the area were Violet. So, understandably, we doubted the truth of the forecast once or twice. How could so much rain be coming when we were enjoying such glorious sunshine? Still, precautions were taken and we spent a morning preparing Sunseed for the likelihood of a heavy rain. Gabriel, our organic gardens coordinator led a team in sand bag collecting. They lugged the heavy bags from the gardens to the main street of the village where they built banks to protect the road from the floods of water. Tanks were positioned to collect the rain, so that we could make the most of the precious water, and where necessary buckets were placed to catch the leaks in the roofs.

The next day we watched as the rain clouds gathered at the edges of the valley, laden with their blessing of much needed water they drew nearer and nearer. Most people had found inside jobs to do during the day to avoid getting wet, and we sat around the house, trying to use as little electricity as possible. The clouds meant that the solar system wasn’t working at full capacity and once it dropped down to 90% we could not charge any devices, despite this the atmosphere around the main house was one of excitement.

Waiting for the storm

And then the rains came. They hammered, heavy and hard into the dry earth, the first few drops sending little flurries of dust into the air, until everything was soaked. It was only minutes before the main street of the village had become a river, flowing over our bare feet where we stood soaking in the water, just like the plants.

Soaking up the rain

In the evening the storm picked up. Lightning flashed across the sky, illuminating towering cloud formations and thunder rolled through our valley. We stood huddled in the doorway of one of the buildings, watching the water run down the main street. We laughted as we tried to avoid the rain, splashing through the streams and puddles and even pausing to dance under the torrent. That night, warm and dry once more, the rain beat a comforting rhythm against the roofs and, after a summer of heat, blankets were pulled from cupboards and onto beds.

On Friday in the pouring rain Gabriel, Tom, and our neighbour Dave Dene fixed the floodgates of the acequia with yeso, which sets underwater. So now all that we needed to do was clear the new mud from the acequia. Luckily, Saturday was the communal acequia maintenance day and we were joined by our neighbours to clear the acequia. We were up to our knees in the water channels scooping mud into buckets with our hands. Squeezing between caña and under hanging brambles we cleared the areas of the acequia that were worst affected by the rain and the silt that it had carried with it.

Cleaning the acequia

Once finished we trouped, muddy and tired, back to Sunseed’s main building. But, because the acequia wasn’t running yet, the village ram pump wasn’t working, and we had very limited water for washing. Using water collected from the rains we washed the mud from hands and faces and then settled in to enjoy our Saturday.

Later on, when the river was once again crossable, our drylands team went to find out what the rains had done to all of the hard work that has been poured into the area. We all wanted to know whether the walls had held or if the force of the water had knocked them away. To our delight, when the team came back, they had photos of the walls not only standing strong and proud, but having worked fantastically to slow and even stop the water. Areas of the drylands were all puddles and mud from the soil and water which had been stopped before it could flow away. It was cause for celebration and the main house was filled with our smiles of joy and relief.


The heavy rains have gone now, but the season is turning from summer gently into autumn. Since the storm we have had small showers of rain, the ground is still damp enough that we haven’t had to water the gardens for the last few days, giving us an unexpected luxury of time. But it’s not only the weather that is different, the landscape has changed. The poza is now far more open and elongated, as most of the caña were swept away or flattened, it gives us a view further down the river that is more open. Sweetcorn that we have been nurturing and growing through summer was knocked down by the power of the storm. The ram pump is not yet up and running, but our wonderful maintenance team are working hard to get it operating. By now the turtles have returned to Rio Aguas and the silt is settling out of the river. The trees, plants and people are all refreshed and rejuvenated by the downpour.

The land love the rain

Drylands Management

The term Bokashi comes from Japanese and it means a fermented organic matter. We chose to apply this technique for its several assets (developed later), but with some adjustments according to our resources available around us.

Basically, a Bokashi system need sources of Nitrogen, Carbon and other nutrients which will be fermented by Effective Microorganism (EM) with the help of sugar additions and material with porosity to enhance their growing.This technique provides fertilizers as a basic compost, it is very fast (around two weeks), and the final result is very close to a natural humus. It contains EM and the growth factor hormones added through a Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ) and a higher C/N rates than a compost. What better material can we ask for our work in soil regeneration in the Drylands Department?

So how did we make it? We used:

  • around 400kg of humanure mixed with
  • 100kg of soil
  • some straws chopped
  • ashes for the Carbon content (and also regulate the pH)
  • coffee grounds for the porosity and their nutrient content
  • diluted pee.

This is our appropriation of the Bokashi system; otherwise the best materials are rice bran hull, any manure, compost, garden soil and some molasses.

Peter preparing layers of the bokashi compost pile

Then we raised the humidity rate up to 60% by adding the water and a mix of EM, FPJ and sugar. Our EM had been home made with some soil harvested under canes and put in appropriate conditions to grow. This is called Indigenous MicroOrganism culture (IMO).

Finally we’ll have to follow the temperature of this mud cake during two weeks and turning it when needed (from 1 to 3 times a day) and eventually harvest the final product – the nutrients for the trees used in reforestation, made mainly from human output.

At Sunseed nothing goes to waste, especially our toilet waste. This week I had the opportunity to help build a Bokashi compost from scratch with Dimitri in the Drylands department. It’s quite an inventive process, using all natural material to create rich hummus in just 2 weeks!

It feels like a chemistry project; 3 litres of this, two tablespoons of that and hey presto we have soil. As we were building it Dimitri explained each step and why we do it, which really helped me understand how amazing a process it really is. Permaculture is revolution disguised as gardening!

Peter, short term visitor

For further information we can advise you to get a look at the “NATURE FARMING MANUAL. A handbook of preparations, techniques and organic amendments inspired by Nature Farming and adapted to locally available materials and needs in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines, Helen Jensen, Leopoldo Guilaran, Rene Jaranilla & Gerry Garingalao.” It has been our guideline for the Bokashi principles.


Drylands Management, Organic Gardening

If you are interested in seeds conservation and wild plants, this post is probably for you.

An essential part of our drylands department is the regeneration of the local vegetation, through the collection and reproduction of wild seeds. We have a small but precious seed bank where we store seeds harvested in the area, so that we can sow them in the following planting season. I have been looking out for initiatives, companies or seed banks that could give us valuable inputs.

Last week we finally managed to reach Cordoba and meet Candido Galvez from Semillas Silvestres (Wild Seeds), a pretty unique company. Candido Galvez started ”Semillas Silvestres” 25 years ago, with the goal of producing native seeds and improving seed technology. Him and his 7 people team are working on the reproduction of trees, shrubs and mainly herbaceous species.

A crucial point is understanding what do they intend as native seeds. Native here is synonym of autochthonous.  ”Semillas Silvestres” doesn’t work with forestry species, neither with endangered species. They look mainly for neglected species, species with an unknown use (until now), but that are beneficial for biodiversity and the sustainability of agroecological systems.

Why conserving and reproducing wild seeds?

Candido and his team are hunting for the most interesting native species which could serve purposes of ecological restoration, landscaping, or agroecosystem sustainability. They have participated in multiple international and European research projects, lately focusing on the use of native species for soil erosion control in olive plantations (such as CUVrEN Olivar).

In order to select relevant species, ”Semillas Silvestres” uses a matrix, which matches the native species traits and the needs of the crops they will be working with, or the needs of the growers, depending on the situations. Some traits are extremely important, such as seed replicability: are the seeds I want to work with easy to reproduce? At what cost? Germination rates also need to be taken into account. I need to pick species which can be easily germinated, or again, easily enough, and at an acceptable cost. Also, can I actually conserve my seeds for longer periods? Some seeds, if dried, do not survive (recalcitrantseeds, as opposed to orthodox). This makes their conservation impossible. Finally, seeds with very low dormancy are also avoided. A dormant seed is like a ‘sleeping’ seed, waiting for favorable environmental conditions to sprout. Seeds with very low dormancy can be a very big problem for farmers as their germination cannot be controlled.

A seed journey

The seeds you buy from ”Semillas Silvestres” have actually not been collected in the wild. Candido and his team do not want to harvest everything from nature. This is because they want to protect the wild population, be more efficient in their production, and be able to implement technologies that couldn’t be used otherwise.

So they only collect the ‘parents’ seeds in the wild. In the harvesting process there is a clear difference between native seeds and commercial food crops. With native seeds there’s no such thing as selection, as the goal is almost the opposite: provide as much variety as possible. There are protocols followed in order to minimize the seeds selection, and to ensure that the sample collected represent the widest variety of characteristics of each species. The ideal situation would be a representation of all the variability that takes place in wilderness, in order to ensure larger success for the native species when grown in different contexts. For example when planting wild seeds for ground cover, the needs of each olive plantation are different: soils, rainfall, climate. That’s why genetic variety is an essential component.

The ‘parents’ seeds are reproduced in the plots of ”Semillas Silvestres” for a few years, until they have enough seeds to bring their product to the market. These plots are called Seed Production Areas (SPAs), a concept spreading all over the world, with the goal of sustaining the natural production of wild seeds, so that we can rely on a higher supply of these precious species, without actually affecting their natural environment. In the SPAs more efficient technologies of seed harvesting can be applied, to ensure larger production. Interestingly enough, seeds grown here are not organically certified, as an organic production is not cost-effective.

The harvested seeds are then dried and cleaned. Humidity is the first cause of viability loss, that’s why the drying process is one of the most important. We then move into the quality control room. Here viability, germination and purity of seed samples are evaluated. Viability basically tells us whether a seed is alive or not. A seed can be dormant but still viable, so still capable of germinating under the right conditions. This is why viability is in this case more important than germination rate.

Our journey ends in the storage rooms, with a pleasant smell of dry grass. Boxes and crates full of seeds ready to be shipped out fill up the walls. A great tip from Candido: as a general rule for basic seeds conservation, he advises us to always check temperature and humidity. Their sum should not be higher than 60. If you want to conserve your seeds properly, keep your moisture levels down, that’s easier and more cost effective than lowering temperature.

If you want to find more information about wild seeds conservation, give a look at the European Native Seeds Conservation Network (ENSCONET) website, where you can find harvesting and conservation manuals.

And now, back to our seedbank!


Drylands Management, Sustainable Living

By Drylands assistant Margaux

With Spring in full bloom in the valley, the Drylands and Sustainable Living departments have been out walking with volunteers to collect the capers that are starting to grow and preserving them in preparation for summer salads. Have you ever picked capers? The pickled capers we use as seasoning are actually the buds of the plant called “Capparis spinosa”. They need to be picked before they turn into these lovely white flowers. It is preferable to pick the smaller buds which have more flavour.

It’s important to follow some basic guidance if you are planning to pick plants in the wild. First of all, make sure that you are not in a preserved zone.  There must be, at least, 5 plants of the same species in the area you are planning to pick. Then, do not collect more than 20-30% of the plant’s fruits or flowers, so it is still able to reproduce. Another last tip, try not to pick close to roads; you shouldn’t be closer than 50 meters from the nearest road.

“Its huge pink-and-white flowers  bristling with stamens and anthers, and its tough thorny leaves were nourished by roots that burrowed for moisture more than a hundred feet into the parched earth.” – South from Granada, Gerard Brenan

Preserving capers is simple –  to start off with you need just a water and salt mixture to soak them. This water needs to be changed every three or four days, four times. One the soaking process is done, you can preserve the capers in vinegar, and with any other herbs you like. Besides being a tasty addition to salads (or as a pizza topping at our famous pizza parties!) capers are known to be powerful anti-oxidants and to help in circulation of blood – so a perfect complement to our healthy sustainable diet here at Sunseed.


Drylands Management

This year in the Drylands Department, we started work on a herb spiral in the Arboretum to demonstrate a water-efficient growing technique for dry areas. First initiated by our volunteer Ulrike, the herb spiral project had then been taken over by Giulia and Margaux – now we’re excited to say that the beautiful project is now finished!

Here in Almeria, the driest region in Europe, building such a spiral can present many benefits.

Efficient water usage

First, the spiral is designed in such a way that it retains the moisture at its base. This design allows a large variety of herbs to grow as it has both a drier zone at the top and a moist area at the bottom.  Our herb spiral will then probably see plants that don’t drink much, like rosemary, oregano and thyme, grow at its top part. The water management of the spiral is such that no water is wasted. The runoff water is collected and absorbed by the thirsty plants positioned at the bottom of the spiral.

Adapted to microclimates

In the same way, the spiral’s design also helps the herbs to benefit from diverse microclimates due to the variety of positions allowed : sunny, sheltered and shady. The top part of the spiral will then be perfect to grow herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme that prefer a sunny position, while the bottom part of the spiral will fit better to shade-loving herbs such as mints.

Heat retention

Besides, the stones used to build the spiral retain heat absorbed during the day, keeping the spiral warm when temperatures drop at night. Retaining the heat can be really useful in a semi-arid climate, where we usually face huge temperature gaps between daytime and night time.

A unique garden feature

More than a practical tool that allows to grow a variety of herbs under the best conditions in a dry area, the herb spiral is also of aesthetic interest. Inspired by nature itself, the design of the spiral ramp is irresistible to the eye and draws it as a focal point in the garden. The stones used for our spiral are carefully chosen to be aesthetically pleasing to our visitors’ eyes.

We’re looking forward to reaping the benefits of our herb spiral in delicious, flavoursome dishes in the months to come!


Drylands Management

As an EVS volunteer, I wanted to look back over the last semester I spent in Sunseed as an assistant of Dryland Management Department. Originally coming from a completely different background, I had to learn everything from the very beginning. Before I leave and go back to my daily life in Paris, I wanted to share some parts of this fulfilling experience:

When I first arrived in February, Dryland Department was dedicating part of its time to planting different tree species on Allan’s land, as a part of its reforestation duty. Experimenting with carob trees, we could note after a couple of months that the place where the tree was planted had a crucial impact on its survival. Planting in the shadow and in the terraced part of the land look to have increased the chances of survival of the tree. We also observed that some of the species we planted, such as the Salsola oppositifolia, were more likely to survive in this arid environment.


Cleaning behind the compostero

In April, Dryland Department initiated a long-term project which was to clean and improve the area of the “compostero” where is kept the hummanure compost next to the vivero. The idea was to provide more shadow to the compost in order to keep it quite moist during the heat of the Almerian summer. We first substituted all the trash stored behind the compostero with soil. We wanted to use this strategic spot to plant trees that will provide natural shade to the compost.


Extracting Auxina from sprouted lentils

In May, Dryland Management department lead an experiment on the use of Auxina to help stimulate plants’ roots growth. The Auxina is a hormone naturally secreted by the plants and is known to help the stimulation of plant’s roots and speed up its development. We tried to extract some from sprouted lentils, getting a mixture out of the roots and water. The mixture was supposed to be ready to use after being kept 24 hours in the dark. Unfortunately, it turned out that the use of the mixture didn’t show any notable effect.


Visiting Rodalquilar botanical garden

In June, Dryland Department drove a couple of volunteers to the botanical garden of Rodalquilar while the trees were still blossoming. The end of the spring was the perfect time to identify the different species thanks to their flowers. Rodalquilar’s botanical garden gives interesting details about the properties of the plants that grow all around the semi-desert of Almeria. The carob tree, for example, has been used for a long time, in the region, for its medicinal properties as syrup for coughing.The same month, the Dryland coordinator, Elena, helped with volunteers, ended the construction of a caña roof to the compostero, providing a bit of the indispensable shadow during summertime.


Before and after with the caña roof